The Broader View: The Importance of Restraint

Trump orders the killing of General Suleimani and top aides and on 1/3/2020, the vehicle they were traveling in after arriving in Baghdad is hit by a rocket fired from a drone. They go up in flames.

Suleimani was in charge of Iran’s military interventions in the region (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Yemen) and thus responsible for much devastation and misery, including the death of Americans.

But how did we get there?

Deeply held rivalries in the area go back many years and have been increased by the establishment of the Israeli state, which we back.

Maintaining our commitment to supporting Israel does not mean, however, giving in to the wishes of their leaders.

The Middle East remains a cauldron of festering enmities shared by millions of people and which will require the concerted effort of enlightened local leaders to mitigate. And it will take many years for that to happen.

There will be no clear winner in that process and it is obvious that for a modicum of peace to be reached, a series of compromises and an abundance of education, restraint and economic development will be needed.

That long term view was the motivation behind the nuclear deal signed in 2015 between the US, Iran, China, France, England, Germany and Russia.

The deal called for Iran to stop the development of nuclear weapons for a 10 year period in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. The point of the deal was to gain us time. Precious time for Iran to develop economically, and for that development to take root in their people and in the surrounding area so that attitudes toward compromise became more amenable.

But that option did not seem sufficiently comforting to Netanyahu and company. They saw the nuclear deal as ‘appeasement’ of Iran. Anyway, it was an Obama idea and what did he know? It well suited Netanyahu’s bellicose instincts that the idea be scrapped.

But the nuclear deal would have been very acceptable to a man like former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an Israeli extremist in 1995. (even developed nations murder their best, like we did JFK and Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy)

Men and Women make a difference. Yitzhak Rabin was a leader with an intelligence, imagination and compassion that Netanyahu has been incapable of emulating.  

When Netanyahu sees Trump become president, he sees his chance to scrap the nuclear deal. And it suited Trump just as well. For Trump, anything Obama did was tainted. And Netanyahu whispered the right words into his ears. Scrap the deal! Make us safer!

Was the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran an abandonment of Israel? Of course not.

We stand by that nation in good and bad times. That commitment has been made.

While the US is strong, Israel will always have a staunch ally and we will go to their side if they are in danger.

But that does not mean that we have to stop efforts at finding a compromise.

Trump, with his limited foresight, could not get it. He does not have that imaginative reach and we are the worse for it.

Iran has vowed retaliation for Suleimani’s death. There is no question that it will come. Such retaliation could take any shape, happen in foreign soil or on our own, be directed toward military installations or toward innocent civilians. Anyone of us could be a victim.

It should give us pause.

Pause to think why we elect our leaders. Pause to remind us that our choice of leader must have the ability to think under pressure, to have compassion, to have an imagination, to care for other human beings. It is not easy to find all those qualities in a person but seek them we must. Or we will pay for the consequences.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to view a photo exhibit of American soldiers who had died in the service of the nation. They were from all races. Men and women of various ages, who had committed to defending our nation. Each photograph was compelling. Each made me reflect.

Freedom has a price and those courageous men and women had volunteered to fight for all of us. The least they deserve is for our leaders to honor their commitment by being judicious in their choices.

Keeping such photo exhibit as a permanent installment in the White House, would help remind our presidents of what sacrifices Americans make.

Oscar Valdes

On Iran. A Little Thought, Anyone?

                                                                                                        

When Trump decided to pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran his objective was to boost his macho image on the world stage. The agreement, flawed as it was, had kept us in diplomacy. Trump’s choice to break away from the pact shut us out of it. I suppose he’s keeping some people happy with his decision but our nation as a whole is the loser.

It is so easy to lose perspective on the subject. Sure, Iran is funding Hamas and Hezbollah and is a foe to allies in the region, but are any of those allies not dictatorial, except for Israel? No. Realpolitik? Okay, but not to boost the flawed ego of a failing president.

It is so convenient to forget how we’ve treated Iran. In 1953 we joined with Britain to overthrow a regime that wanted to nationalize their oil production. We felt we had the right to bully another nation into submission.

We installed the Shah which was no great gift to anyone other than he was willing to do our bidding. Finally, the Iranians had had enough and revolted. But soon after we were backing Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in a long bloody war against Iran that cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. No qualms of conscience. The war was far away from our soil.

As things went, it would not be long before Saddam turned against us, and so back in we went with guns blazing to attempt to mold another regime to our liking. Never mind the lack of evidence for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

After all that blood and treasure spent, can we say we have liberated Iraq? No. They will be very happy to see us leave and one day soon we will have to. Our legacy? Iraq has grown more sympathetic to Iran.

It is not difficult to see how a more thoughtful policy from the start could have delivered very different results and the Middle East would likely be a different story today. Where were the thinkers then? Where are they now?

Make America Great Again? Really. I see no trace of greatness in our record with Iran or Iraq.

But let us not lose hope.

The other day I saw that some people had come up with a line of clothing that said ‘Make America Think Again’. It might be the start of something.